Heading off to North Wales for a weekend of Four Star Training, a little rain was
what we wanted (and was forecast) to make sure we could get on some rivers. And we
certainly got some rain - but more about that later.
What’s BCU Four Star all about? Well it’s a leadership award, qualifying people to
take others on grade 2 rivers. So training is basically about looking at and working
on personal skills on grade 2 – 3 rivers, and learning how to lead groups on a river
trip. This weekend was the first time that we have offered training for the Four
Star award since the changes to the awards came in two years ago. So a team of ten
rolled up at a bunkhouse near Bala to meet trainers Andy and Nigel. Plus Cliff and
Les were in tow to observe and help run the course.
With the forecast rain not arriving on Friday night, we headed off to Mile End Mill
on Saturday, where the Dee provides a reliable water and features, plus a trip up
the canal gives the option of paddling back down to the Mill via Serpents Tail. And
with the gauge at 3½ (remember that number for later!) it was ideal for what we needed.
After being mugged for raffle tickets and a quick chat about kit it was onto the
river. One group headed off up the canal for the river trip, while our group stayed
at the Mill to look at personal skills. Two hours of breaking in and out, ferry
gliding and surfing waves later and it was lunchtime - a good couple of minutes of
which I spent watching some-one getting a good spanking in the grippy stopper come
After lunch we headed up the canal, but unlike the other group we actually paddled!
(although I hear Russ had a close encounter with a rubber duck award, he nearly slipped
in the canal while towing his boat - more details / photos are needed!)
Back on the river, it was leadership time with each of the group getting the chance
to have a go at leading the rest. This was interrupted by Serpents Tail rapid - imagine
the whole of the river Dee being channelled through a relatively narrow gap of a
couple of metres and throw in steeper gradient and you have a cracking rapid. Clearly
not a grade 2 then, but the Four Star require you to be able to run sections of grade
3, and this was top end 3 (or maybe 4?). Still no problems in our group, but there
may have been some out of boat experiences in the other group?